1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Rank
RANK (O.Fr. ranc or renc, mod. rang, generally connected with the O.E. and O.H.G. hring, a ring), a row or line, as of cabs or carriages, but especially of soldiers drawn up abreast in a line; in “rank and file” the “rank” is the horizontal line of soldiers, the “file” the vertical. From the sense of orderly arrangement “rank” is applied to grades or classes in a social or other organization, and particularly to a high grade, as in such expressions as a “person of rank.” This word must be distinguished from the adjective “rank,” over-luxuriant, coarse, strong, generally connected with the Low Ger. rank, thin, tall (cf. Du. rank, upright). The O.E. rinc, warrior, i.e. full-grown man, may be also connected with the word; Skeat refers also to “rack,” to pull out straight.